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Sanders Tells DNC to Reject Super PAC Spending Against Progressives in Primaries

One centrist super PAC has already spent $2 million to oppose a progressive Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bernie Sanders conducts a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on November 3, 2021.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has written an open letter to Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Jaime Harrison, imploring him and the party to reject the use of super PAC dollars in primary election contests.

In his letter, Sanders recognized that Democrats have “condemned Republican ‘dark money’ super PACs which spend huge amounts of money to elect their right-wing candidates.”

Just this week, the Supreme Court sided with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a dispute on campaign finances, ruling that, post-election, he and other candidates are free to use unlimited funds from donations raised to pay back personal loans they incurred during the election season.

Sanders said that Democrats “appropriately” oppose efforts that would allow mega-donors to influence elections, including the use of super PACs in general election contests. But the party should do more to condemn such spending in its own primary elections, he said.

“I have not heard any criticism from Democratic leaders about the many millions of dollars in dark money being spent by super PACs that are now attempting to buy Democratic primaries,” Sanders wrote to Harrison. “The goal of this billionaire funded effort is to crush the candidacies of a number of progressive women of color who are running for Congress.”

Sanders noted that “a super PAC is a super PAC, whether it is funded by Republican billionaires or Democratic billionaires.” Dark money efforts to alter primary races should be rejected by the party, he went on.

The Vermont senator asked the DNC to “make it clear that super PAC money is not welcome in Democratic primaries,” stating that he believes the party should make public statements about the matter, and should “consider actions that punish candidates who refuse to adhere to this principle.”

Doing so would be advantageous to Democrats in the long-run, Sanders implied, as there would be “no question,” in his mind, “that the continuation of super PAC money in Democratic primaries will demoralize the Democratic base and alienate potential Democratic voters from the political process.”

“Let Democratic candidates compete with each other based on their ideas and grassroots support, not on the kind of billionaire super PAC money they can attract,” Sanders concluded.

Sanders’s letter comes as super PACs are indeed trying to shape Democratic primary races to promote more conservative choices in this year’s midterms.

The United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has spent more than $2 million, for instance, in an effort to block progressive Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee (D) from winning the primary election to run as a Democrat in the state’s 12th Congressional District. Lee is backed by Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).

The organization is also throwing its support behind incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar, an anti-abortion Democrat, in Texas’s 28th Congressional District, spending more than $1.2 million in his primary race to help him fend off a challenge from progressive candidate and human rights lawyer Jessica Cisneros.

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